Sunday, August 13, 2017

Ugly Tomatoes.

For the last few years we have always planted Sun Gold tomatoes, in my view one of the prettiest tomato and one of the best flavoured ones, however, somehow things went wrong this year. A friend gave us two trays of tomato seedlings. She had far too many for her and two trays were too much for us, so only one tray was planted, we also failed to ask her what they were. None of our beloved Sun Golds were planted. Well, these unknown tomatoes appear to be beef tomatoes, I could be wrong on this as it's not a type I would plant, it's good to look a gift horse in the mouth.
not only do they take the prize for being the ugliest thing we have grown I also don't like the flavour, not much tomato, rather acid and when fried they go to a creamy consistency. We had plans for lots of sun dried tomatoes this year now that we have the dehydrator, I'm just not too sure how these ugly toms will work out. I guess time will tell. Moral to this tale, sometimes
The other mistake this year is our French Beans which have turned out to be Runner Beans, we ordered seeds form a new company this year, and the beans certainly looked like French Beans, they were duly pre-germinated before planting into the tunnel, I was a little surprised how long they were taking to form beans as French Beans are quite quick, but they are most definitely Runner Beans, so we have two lots of Runners, one in the tunnel and the ones in the garden, we have never enjoyed frozen Runners and our experiment with salting them a few years ago was not that successful, and most of our friends all grow their own, so we will have a lot of wasted beans this year unless we can come up with an idea how to use them. I wonder if they would de-hydrate and still be worth eating.
What a beauty.
After having written in my last post about the lack of butterflies we arrived home the next day to a mist of newly hatched butterflies, the Buddleia was full of them,
Peacocks,
Tortoiseshell's
and Red Admirals, they have remained around us all this week, with new ones appearing daily, including Speckled Wood, unfortunately they are too fast to 'photograph. It's reassuring to see them.
All the peaches have now been picked, the older tree gave us fifty eight half pounders, we ate what we could and the rest have been bottled ready for winter deserts. The store cupboard is now full, so it's just as well the fruit season is over apart from the apples and they will be de-hydrated.
Looking towards Strandhill, lots of interesting Orchids in those dunes.
We once again had a trip to the Sligo coast, via the Ox mountains, but this time we took a different route across the mountains
and discovered banks of Harebells,
we know we had seen them in these mountains once before but could not remember where,
I never get bored seeing the coast, there's always so much movement and interesting things to see,
this time I spotted a Cormorant drying it's wings, it was only after I had taken the photo that I realised that there was also a Heron doing the same thing, unfortunately it's not a clear picture of the Heron.
More waves.
We also found a beautiful waterfall, but not on the coast , this one is in Killukin, in Co. Leitrim. I guess I am  attracted to any water source being an Aquarian. I always find it so calming, even if they are big waves.
The Chinese lantern plant which was gift from a friend has done wonderfully this year, it is now well established.
All the new plants around the pond have taken,
Zara our Persian cat loves to walk around the plants smelling the Thymes and Dianthus, she's not interested in the other plants.
 Now all that remains to be done to the rockery is planting spring bulbs, I can't believe that we are already coming up to bulb planting time again, where has this year gone? 

Friday, August 4, 2017

Lack of insects.

Concession to bedding plants, a lovely piece of Bog oak which was crying out for some flowers.
Where have all the insects gone? This year there have been so few around, I've not seen one honey bee, very few bumble bees, only the odd hoverfly, very few moths or butterflies, there have been a few small whites and a few large whites, and earlier on in the year I saw quite a few orange tips, but it is now full summer, where are all the Red Admirals? count to date just one, Peacocks nil,
and just one lone Tortoiseshell, there's even a lack of midges and mosquitos, not that I'm sorry about that, but they are still needed, especially for the Swallows and Swifts. It's not just our garden that's failing to attract them, we were at a friends place last weekend and she  also mentioned the lack of insects. We both plant for the insects and other wild life, and no chemicals of any type are used in the gardens, I can't help but wonder if we are moving towards Rachel Carson's 'Silent Spring', if we are 'the world is up the creek without a paddle.'
The pond and rockery is now finished, we went to a small aquatic nursery and bought two water lilies for the pond, one white and one pink, it should look nice next year when the lilies have settled in, and at the moment the rockery is free of mares tail and silver weed.
The fruit on the older peach tree is now ready for picking, the peaches are huge, weighing in at just over eight ounces  each, desert is now peaches and home made yoghurt.
The vegetable garden is producing well and we are spoilt for choice, the only disappointment has been the potatoes with a very reduced yield, possible caused through lack of rain in April when they were planted and May when they should have really got going, there was plenty of leaf and flowers, just very few tubers, we will just have to eat more rice and pasta.
I had thought that we had picked all the redcurrants, however Simon managed to find another four pounds of them
which I turned into eight pots of Redcurrant and Mint jelly, this makes a lovely change from mint sauce or straight redcurrant jelly, apart from bottling the remaining peaches the jelly is the last thing I will be preserving this year.

The flower gardens are looking very colourful, with the Lucifer against the Aconite,




all the Dahlias have done very well this year, last years tubers seem to have doubled in size,
and the perfumed lilies are also in flower.
We took a trip to the coast via the Ox mountains,
all the streams had turned to rivers which were in full spate creating quite a noise.
At the coast we spotted an interesting masonry built archway into a wall, it appears to have been built to give an entrance to the stream, maybe to collect fresh water for drinking or for livestock, as it was so well built it must have had an important purpose.
We also spotted a Cormorant on some rocks, waiting to dive on some unsuspecting fish.
Flower bed just outside the bedroom, lovely to wake up to lots of colour.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

More hours please.

I'm sure one day I will catch myself coming back, where does time go? It's a week since my last post yet it seems only a few hours ago.
In this time the rockery has been re-made, all the dreaded mares tail and silver weed removed and the rockery replanted,
the plants will now need sometime to re-establish, but even so, it looks much better. We did have a water feature when we first did the pond but we found that it did  not work satisfactorily, and  the water level in the pound could not be maintained, so we have abandoned the original set up and ordered a solar powered pump which operates a small fountain.
A work in progress.
I ordered it on Sunday and it was delivered today,( well done Amazon) the OH is now installing it, but needless to say the sun has now gone and we are back to rainy weather, so until we have four hours of sunshine to power the solar, the feature will not operate.
Three Doctors appointments have taken up another three hours of our time, and I now have to use the nebuliser four times a day which means another two hours per day wasted.
Ragwort. It might be a noxious weed, but it's still pretty.
However, there is always time to enjoy the lovely countryside around us and the late summer wild flowers which makes the countryside so colourful.
Greater willow herb.
So many wild flowers are worthy of a place in the garden,
Rosebay willow herb can be controlled by not allowing it to set seed, but it makes a colourful addition to the garden,

Purple loosestrife it a great addition near the pond, it would also look lovely in a flower bed but as our soil is very free draining I'm not too sure how well it would survive,
even bush vetch could be used scrambling in a hedge, it gives a lovely burst of colour as well as fixing nitrogen, and of course,
Honeysuckle, there are so many cultivars but I still think that the wild one takes a lot of beating.
Meanwhile the onions have now been
tied and stringed, the larger ones will be processed  and the de-hydrated mainly because the larger ones are too big for our use for one day, and it's never a good idea to save a cut onion, so dehydration seems the way to go.
Once again the garlic is a silly size, it seems year on year the  bulbs gain an ounce, I know last year the average size was 4.3 oz.
this year the average is 5.4oz. Weeds are growing a pace, I swear that as soon as one is pulled another two grow to take it's place.
 We are also back to making yoghurt, the Dr. had put me on a high dose of antibiotics, of which my stomach does not approve,  my body say's I need yoghurt, so the incubator has been brought out to make it. We have not hatched any eggs this year, there has just not been sufficient time, but at least the incubator has other uses. It's eight years plus since I had to take antibiotics, lets hope it's another eight years before I take them again.
The second peach tree fruits are still not quite ripe, this might be because both tunnel doors have been left open to avoid too much humidity which would affect the tomatoes, however the size of the peaches is astounding, they are double that of the other trees even though they are the same variety. I' looking forward to trying them to see if the flavour is any different.
The flower gardens are now moving towards the late summer flowers,
phlox
and the perpetual Sweet peas  are flowering and great excitement for me,
the  Acanthus  (Bear's Breeches) has given us it's first flower, it has taken three years to establish, but worth the wait,
Gladioli are just starting to flower, and the Dahlias are in full flower, giving lots of cut flowers for the house,
Clematis are also giving a second flowering, there is also another flower which has thrived against a fence, unfortunately I have no idea what it is other than it must be a member of the legume family, it is very pretty, but without knowing what it is I can't split it or take cuttings. I will have to ask our plant expert Saffron when we see her at the weekend, and at last the Chinese lantern plant
( Physalis alkekengi) has given me some colour, again this has taken a couple of years to get going, it is in the new tunnel.
We have also had a lovely trip into Connemara.
A babbling brook in Connemara. 
Fantastic scenery.
Up hills and down dales.
One of the many lakes.

The Fjord at Leenane.
Leenane which is in fact in Co. Galway. We have been there before but only remembered it when we got there! One of those senior moments I guess. It is a lovely place to spend a few hours, it has several restaurants and craft shops, the last time we went we had taken a picnic with us, but this time we decided we would have a lunch out, we opted for the Blackberry CafĂ©, this turned out to definitely be a good choice for me, there was so much seafood to choose from. The staff were great, and it was no problem to get me and the wheel chair in despite there being no disabled ramps.
I chose the fresh Calamari cooked in breadcrumbs and can truthfully say it was the best I had ever had even though we had lived in Spain for eight years.
Simon went for the seafood chowder, with fresh soda bread.

Yet another Irish craft beer, it was very good.

Leenane village is the place where 'The Field' was filmed although we had not realised that until a friend told me today. We did not go into the craft shops, which was probally a very good thing, but, maybe next time?
It might be newly built but it still looks a dream cottage.